Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians addressed their overvaluation of certain spiritual gifts. In the second letter, he referenced the gifts as a way to encourage benevolent action on their part.
— 2 Corinthians 8.7 – Now as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you — so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
The “generous undertaking” was an offering for the church in Jerusalem that was starving.
Faith, speech, and knowledge were highly valued spiritual gifts in Corinth. “Faith” was probably viewed as a miracle-working faith by leading members of the church.
“Speech” referred to speaking in tongues which was a heavenly language, the speech of angels.
“Knowledge” was special insider wisdom that was highly valued by Corinthians society, because it added to the status of an individual.
While acknowledging these spiritual gifts, Paul called the congregation to practical action.
James, the brother of Jesus, knew the need for action to accompany faith.
— James 2.14-17 – What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Surely that faith cannot save, can it?
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food and one of you says to them,
“Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
The church in Jerusalem where James served was lacking in the basic necessities of life. Paul and James used similar logic to call the church to action.
I recently listened to a talk by Dallas Willard. He sang a familiar worship song that said, “All of me, Lord. I give all of me.”
Willard challenged his listeners and said, “Do we really mean ‘all of me’? If so, it will show by our obedience to his direction in my life.”
Just because we understand the inconsistency in the lives of the Corinthians, doesn’t mean that we don’t have contradictions in our relationship with the Lord.
Let’s make sure that “all” means just that!
The Great Exchange
Paul described a great exchange that took place in history because of God’s love for humans.
— 2 Corinthians 8.8-10 – I do not say this as a command, but I am, by mentioning the eagerness of others, testing the genuineness of your love.
For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
And in this matter I am giving my opinion: it is beneficial for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something.
The richest 1% of the world’s population own 50% of the world’s wealth.
The richest 0.01% of the world’s population own 11% of the world’s wealth.
The richest Being of All became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich.
If Jesus can give so completely, can’t we part with some of our wealth to benefit those whom God loves – the orphans, widows, and immigrants?
Throughout the Bible, these three categories of people represent the most vulnerable of the earth’s population.
Let’s think of practical ways that we can put our faith into action.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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